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Out This Week (In The US): The Huntsman, Roots, Ash vs Evil Dead and more

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the huntsman

The Huntsman: Winter’s War – I liked the original Snow White and the Huntsman, and I liked this sequel as well. Neither one of them is what I would call truly great films, but they’re fun action adventures and they look great. This new one doesn’t have Kristen Stewart in it, which is fine, because Chris Hemsworth can totally carry a movie by himself. Plus, he’s got Jessica Chastain this time around, which is a big improvement over Stewart anyway. Plus, with Nick Frost as a Dwarf, the film is a lot of fun. It starts slow, but it gets better as it goes.

Roots – You know, I’m not usually one for the idea of remaking classics, but in the case of Roots, I’m okay with it. Not only is it a quality production, but the original Roots is 40 years old. I think it’s an important enough story that needs to be told that introducing to a new audience through a new iteration is a good idea. Younger audiences probably wouldn’t be interested in a miniseries from the ‘70s. But a new one? Yeah, I think they could get behind that. Well-acted, well written, and filmed in a modern way, this is a very strong miniseries with a strong message.

Ratchet & Clank – Unfortunately, this movie was a big bomb at the box office. The worst part about that is it’s not actually a bad movie. I mean, I think it came out about 10 years too late (when was the last time people were really talking about Ratchet & Clank?) but the movie is kind of fun. I haven’t really played the video game much so I can’t compare it to that, but as a stand-alone action/sci-fi movie for kids, I liked it. Your kids (and maybe even you) probably will too!

The Walking Dead: Season 6 – Does television get much better than The Walking Dead? I don’t think that it does. While the show certainly has its detractors, for my money, it just gets better and better with every episode. Each new season takes everything that was started in the previous seasons and builds upon it. With a couple of last minute shocks and some really great hints at what lies ahead, The Walking Dead is a show I can’t wait to watch every week. And Season Six introduced the Saviors storyline and Negan, which looks like it’s going to really drive Season Seven. At this point, I definitely like The Walking Dead TV series better than I like the comic books, and I’ve been reading them since the very first issue. If you still haven’t checked this amazing show out, you really need to stop whatever you’re doing and jump on board before the sure-to-be-excellent sixth season starts in October.

Ash vs. Evil Dead – The Complete First Season – Speaking of great TV shows with the undead in them, Ash Vs. Evil Dead is pretty terrific. The first episode is directed by Sam Raimi himself, and it basically feels like The Evil Dead IV. After that, other directors take the reins and they’re not quite as good as Raimi, but the show is still an awful lot of fun. Bruce Campbell slips into the character of Ash so easily and effortlessly that you can’t help but grin while watching it, no matter how much blood is flying. Highly recommended for fans of The Evil Dead.

DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year – My daughter and I love this franchise. We’ve read the comics, played on the website, and I expect a few of the toys will wind up under our Christmas tree this year. This new animated movie (which I hope will be the first of many) is fantastic. It’s girl superheroes made for young girls, which is awesome! My daughter’s enjoyed superhero comics for a long time, but she’s always had limited options when it came to comics for her to read or shows for her to watch. DC Superhero Girls captures everything that’s great about superheroes, but makes it girl-centric enough for her to really relate to, without alienating male parents. It’s fantastic, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for parents of young girls.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • Psycho IV: The Beginning – After the diminishing returns of Psycho II and III, Psycho IV at least tries to do something interesting. This time, we travel into Bates Motel territory, with the film taking place both in Norman Bates’ present (played by Anthony Perkins) and in his past, in the pre-Psycho days (played by E.T.’s Henry Thomas.) It’s not a great film per se, but I have a soft spot for it; as far as the Psycho sequels go (none of which were necessary in the first place), it’s probably the best.
  • Lucifer: The Complete First Season – It takes a little while for Lucifer to get off the ground, but once it does, it’s a pretty fun show. What happens when the devil comes to Los Angeles for a little business and pleasure? Well, all hell breaks loose. Literally! (Ha ha, I couldn’t resist.) The best part about the show is actor Tom Ellis, who is perfectly cast as Lucifer. He’s got the whole “devilish grin” thing down pat, and he really is what makes the show work. I’m curious to see if it can keep improving in Season 2.
  • Castle: Season 8 – One of my favorite shows on TV, Castle remained funny, engaging, and filled with solid mysteries throughout its eighth season. And for those people who think that having two characters get together equals the death knell of a show, I would point to this season of Castle as an example of how good it can be when done right. Castle and Beckett’s romance didn’t make the show one ounce less enjoyable. Every season of the show has been terrific so far, and while Season Eight was probably overall the weakest, it was still extremely enjoyable.
  • The Wonder Years: The Complete Series – One of the most beloved shows of the 80s/90s, The Wonder Years returns to DVD, and this isn’t just some thrown-together release. While there was previously a limited edition box set of the entire series — available only through StarVista online — this mass market set is more budget-friendly. One of the best things about this release is that the distributor went through and secured the rights to ALL of the music in the set, so the show’s indelible soundtrack is intact. And with that, the entire show holds up extremely well. The cast is terrific, the characters are endearing, and the show is sweet and fun, just like it always was. And even better, this set is LOADED with extra features; there are hours upon hour of newly crafted extra features. This really is a treasure trove for fans of the show. What better time is there to welcome Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper back into your home?
  • Maggie’s Plan – I’ve never been able to really get into Greta Gerwig as an actress. She’s fine, and I don’t dislike her, but I’ve never been a big fan. However, when you put her in a movie with Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, and Bill Hader, I’m interested. Maggie’s Plan is a dramedy about couple, infidelity, and potential and practical parenthood. It’s not a magical film, but it’s enjoyable enough, largely because the cast is so good. And I will admit, Gerwig is pretty good here. Worth a watch.
  • Elementary: Season 4 – I’ve always been underwhelmed by this show, but it turned out to be a big hit for CBS. And there’s no denying that it’s gotten better as the seasons went on, but the main problem I have with it is Sherlock. See, the show is based on the BBC’s modern-day updating of Sherlock Holmes, and that show is just so incredibly good. So every time I watch Elementary, I can’t help but think that I’d rather be watching Sherlock. That said, it’s an enjoyable-enough show to watch, especially for mystery fans. Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu play off each other well, and their rapid-fire back-and-forth is evocative of Robert Downey Jr.’s version of Sherlock Holmes, which isn’t a bad thing. I can see why people like this show, I just wish I was more into it. I love mysteries, and I love Sherlock Holmes, but I only like this show. Too bad.
  • Scandal: Season 5 – Created by Grey’s Anatomy’s Shonda Rhimes, Scandal takes the interpersonal dynamics and romances of Grey’s and transplants them to mystery and politic-filled Washington DC. The show features all of Rhimes’ trademarks: strong female characters, sharp dialogue, and compelling story lines. It’s also a little bit bat$#!& crazy, and that’s a good thing. Seriously, this is a show that revels in soap opera drama to the nth degree, and it clearly decided early on that no storyline or plot twist was too crazy to make it to the screen. Every week it’s secrets, scandals, political machinations, infidelity, intrigue, and more plot twists than you can count. It’s also a pretty good amount of fun. There’s no denying the soap opera nature of this show, but if you like a little bit of melodrama in your diet, you need to check Scandal out.
  • Clown – Produced (but not directed) by Eli Roth, Clown is a solid horror flick that at least tries to do something different. It’s not just a psychotic killer in a clown suit, there’s a little more to it than that. I like that part of the story, but at the end of the day, it’s still a horror flick that isn’t terrible (which is high praise for much of what passes for horror these days) but isn’t great, either.
  • On Guard/The Five Day Lover – I can’t say I’m familiar with Phillipe de Broca, the filmmaker whose work is represented in this two-film collection. His films, it turns out, are laced through and through with romance. On Guard is set against the backdrop of royalty, while The Five Day Lover is a modern-day romance tale (well, modern for when the film was made.) This collection showcases Broca’s sure handed filmmaking talents, and for people who think French is the language of love, this set makes a case for why that’s so.
  • Masterpiece Mystery!: Endeavour Series 3 – The Inspector Morse prequel series continues with Endeavour: Series 3, a period mystery piece. With several feature-length movies, this Masterpiece Mystery series delivers the sleuthing goods. I can’t say this is one of my favorite shows, but I do like to pop it in when it comes around on home video. Available on Blu-ray or DVD, it’s a lot of fun.
  • Superstore: Season One – Even though it’s only 11 episodes (a weird number for a first season of a show), I kind of dig Superstore. Starring America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) and Ben Feldman (Drop Dead Diva), the show is basically like a sitcom version of working at Wal-Mart. And I don’t know, but I think that sounds funny. The ensemble cast is great, the jokes are knowing, and while the show won’t have you rolling on he floor laughing, it will at least keep you chuckling. And that’s a good thing.
  • Narcos: Season 1 – This Netflix series tells the tale of the rise of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel. And it’s one of those shows I hate to review, because there’s no doubt it’s a very well-made show: good writing, great performances, interesting subject matter. But I just couldn’t get into it. Honestly, I’ve never found movies or TV shows about the drug trade to be my kind of thing, so while I can appreciate the quality of the show, it’s just not the kind of thing I can get wrapped up in.
  • Masterpiece Mystery!: Inspector Lewis 8Inspector Lewis is yet another hit British mystery show, and it’s a pretty solid one. The show is a spin-off from another British show called Morse. Inspector Lewis follows Inspector Robert Lewis (Kevin Whately) and his partner, as they solve crimes on the Oxford countryside and Colleges. While not my favorite of the British crime shows (that honor goes to Murphy’s Law), it is certainly an enjoyable series, and I like the TV-movie-like approach to the episodes. Production values on the show are a bit lower than American audiences might be used to, but for those who enjoy the PBS/UK-style mysteries, this show is a solid one.
  • The Man Who Knew Infinity – Okay, so in reality, this movie is not just an Indian version of A Beautiful Mind. (Although it maybe is an Indian version of Good Will Hunting.) Okay, it’s not really either of those things, but that should give you an idea of what kind of film you’re in for. With Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons in the lead roles, this interesting true story does have math at its core, but it’s about so much more than that, including the spirit to succeed. With great performances from Irons and Patel, this is a pretty solid film that’s worth checking out.
  • Sundown – Can a film described as a cross between The Hangover and The Real Cancun (that reality film about Spring Break that came out a few years ago) really be a thing? And can it be any good? Well, yes, and… not really. Despite a few recognizable faces (some in very small roles) such as Camilla Belle, Sara Paxton, Teri Hatcher, and John Michael Higgins, this is a movie that was made without much of an eye on quality. As such, it’s a mild distraction at best, but not much more than that
  • Clean Break: Season 1 – I can honestly say I hadn’t heard of a single actor in this show before this DVD crossed my desk. Luckily, they’re all very talented. This show is a bit dark for my tastes, but it is a serious slice of melodrama, so if that’s your thing you may want to check it out. It’s kind of (sort of, but not really) like a slightly askew version of Breaking Bad. Or not. I don’t know, the flavor is similar, even if the plots vary.
  • Wild Kratts: Wild Reptiles – I have to say, as far as kids shows go, The Wild Kratts is one of the better ones. It manages to combine animals and superhero-style adventures into one fun animated series that is both entertaining and educational. And, of course, not only do I find it enjoyable, but my kids also really like it, which is what’s really important. The show focuses on the Brothers Kratt, animal experts and adventurers, who use creature power suits to take on the traits of various animals and interact with them in their habitats. Along the way, a variety of villains, predators, or obstacles will show up, and the Kratt Brothers have to save the day. The show mixes in humor, action, and cool suit designs, plus it has a good supporting cast of characters that kids will like. The Kratt Brothers write, direct, produce, and provide voices for the show, and they’re pretty good at doing all of them!
  • I Am JFK Jr. – Filled with Luminaries like Mike Tyson, Ann Coulter, Cindy Crawford, Robert De Niro, and Larry Flynt, this movie aims to give a glimpse into who John F. Kennedy Jr. really was. While I don’t know that it really succeeds in revealing his inner self, it’s nonetheless an interesting documentary, filled with recollections from those who knew him best as well as television appearances and personal photographs. Definitely worth checking out.
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